Noel Baggaley has run his Brunswick Seed Oysters operation for over 40 years. He has seen many events affect his product, from the ’98 truck collision that spilled into the Bruns River, through to floods and then bumper seasons. Most recently he has had the severe weather and flooding in December 2020 when he lost around 60 per cent of his stock.
At the moment, happily, oysters are growing exceptionally well.
The farmers’ markets have always been Noel’s bread and butter, and the few restaurants he does supply to sourced his product through his market stalls. Recently however with COVID restrictions and restaurants locked down, all his supply has been directed to the farmers’ markets.
The Brunswick River is Noel’s oyster nursery. His oysters grow there in Readings Bay for their first years. Once mature, Noel transfers them to the Tweed River for six months to finish them off. They must be processed in Tweed as the operation in Brunswick does not have electricity or running water owing to its proximity to the National Park.
In the Brunswick River he grows Sydney Rock Oysters, which are the only indigenous oyster to the region. Pacific oysters are an Asian oyster that are farmed.
Oysters really are a superfood. They are high in essential Omega-3 oils, zinc and iron and vitamins A, B and C, and low in cholesterol. ‘If you have a cold coming on, oysters are your best medicine,’ says Noel.
Also, the shells are great for helping your garden flourish. The reason for this is calcium, and the oyster shell has loads of it. On top of this, as filter feeders, oysters can filter up to 100 litres of water a day!
Noel’s oysters come to the markets straight from the river. He opens them and packages them into trays, wrapped and sealed the evening before the markets.
And how does Noel eat his oysters? Of course he prefers them natural, straight out of the river, although, he says, ‘One of the best complements is the Australian native finger lime. They are perfect with oysters.’
Noel sells his in packets of 12 and in winter he also sells homemade seafood chowder made to his family recipe. Oh, and shots! He sells shots with a garnish he makes himself with tabasco, Worcestershire, finger lime, tomato juice and celery salt.
Brunswick Seed Oysters are at Mullum Farmers Market, Friday 7–11am, and at New Brighton Farmers Market 7–11am Tuesdays.
Vale Barry Roughley
You may have noticed a change at Noel’s stall at the Markets. For many years the Brunswick Seed Oyster stall was manned by Barry, who also worked in the oyster farm. Definitely one of life’s characters, a cheeky chappie and a great friend and support to Noel. He was a huge part of the North Byron Market family and is sadly missed.
A toast to Barry with a little oyster shot to thank him for the memories… RIP dear Bazza.
Have a shot at the infamous oyster bar!
If you’ve read a bit of the history of Mullumbimby (eg Aliens of the Tweed and Brunswick by Peter Tsicalas) you’d know that the Sydney Oyster Saloon and Refreshment rooms, on the corner of Burringbar and Dalley Streets, opened by Theo Patras in 1907 was big deal – the 100-seat dining room was apparently the biggest on the North Coast at the time, and Brunswick River oysters were a big drawcard. In those days an oyster supper was the sort of event you’d throw if you were hosting Australia’s first celebrity visitor, English novelist Anthony Trollope. A munificent banker in the goldfields town of Gulgong hosted a public lunch in his honour, ‘with much speaking’. ‘I cannot say that the Gulgong oratory was as good… as the Gulgong oysters’, Trollope responded, the sort of comment that made him pretty unpopular at the time.